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Working together

January 1, 2008
by Douglas J. Edwards, Editor-in-Chief
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Everybody agrees that working together helps solve problems. Having a rigid “silo” mentality doesn't allow for the scope of vision necessary to address complex issues—and behavioral healthcare has plenty of those. If behavioral healthcare organizations don't find new and innovative ways to work together, pressing problems—particularly on the regional, national, or field-wide level—will remain, as a go-it-alone mentality can't advance widespread change.

Yet talking about collaboration is one thing; implementing it is quite another. It's easy to talk about tearing down walls (literally or figuratively) and working together to take on challenges, but actually doing this takes a hard-working attitude, flexibility, and good leadership skills.

I found these attributes in three community-based behavioral healthcare provider organizations in Georgia. A few years ago, one of the agencies was struggling with an electronic health record (EHR) system it developed in-house, while the other two were each shopping for an EHR product. Realizing the increased efficiencies and cost savings they could achieve by working together, the three agencies formed the Peachstate Information Network. Through PIN they jointly selected an EHR system, and you can read more about how this collaboration works on page 10.

After I talked to PIN, I learned of an ambitious project: the merger of three community-based behavioral healthcare agencies, creating what they say is the largest such organization in the country. The Center for Behavioral Health, Quinco Behavioral Health Systems, and Centerstone announced last month their plan to create a provider organization with 120+ locations in Tennessee and Indiana serving 70,000 consumers. The agencies had collaborated on past projects, and they realized that combining their resources will allow them to add specialized services, improve their quality of care, and negotiate large payer contracts. “This merger is very exciting for Quinco, CBH, Centerstone, and our clients,” said Quinco CEO Robert Williams, PhD, in a press release. “As one organization, we will have the ability to combine our collective experiences to advance behavioral healthcare—in each of the regions we serve and nationally.” We'll have more details about the merger in an upcoming issue.

Of course, there are other behavioral healthcare organizations working together to improve operations and services, and I want to share those stories. Send me a note about how your organization is working with others (both those in the business of behavioral healthcare and outside it) to take on the many challenges you face. We've all heard about the need for greater collaboration; now let's focus on how it's being done.

Douglas J. Edwards, Editor-in-Chief